All Articles Leadership Communication To fix feedback, leaders go first

To fix feedback, leaders go first

Leading means embracing and modeling the new habits, new behaviors and new culture you’re working to create. This applies to feedback, too.

5 min read




Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today’s post is by M. Tamra Chandler.

Are you a leader? Maybe your title is CEO, VP, or director, or maybe it’s team lead or project manager. Perhaps you have 1,000 people working under you, or just one or two. Regardless of your span of control or your title, if you’re leading in any capacity, you need to know what I’m about to tell you.

We’ve got feedback all wrong. Not only have we got it wrong, but as humans we’re paying a significant price for our feedback missteps and misuse. The call for a feedback fix is loud and strong.

Why? Because getting feedback right will free us from the hurt and the damage that we’re inadvertently causing one another. It will lift us up and open new doors. If we work together to fix feedback, we can collectively capture those meaningful connections that will improve our relationships, our work and ourselves.

Let’s be clear: Getting it right isn’t about a few tweaks here and there; it’s about starting over. It requires tearing down our old beliefs and building new ones. We’re wiping the slate clean of old practices and protocols and getting a fresh start on feedback.

Our ability to truly fix feedback will depend heavily on placing the emphasis and focus on the Seeker — an individual who proactively seeks feedback from others with the intention of self-development or growth. People need to seek first, and Seekers need to lead the way. Creating an environment where seeking is commonplace is the catalyst for true and sustainable culture change.

Thirty years of research has identified the top factor in driving change: leadership. Change happens when leaders are engaged and committed. It often fails when they are not. Heeding this insight, we know that to change the culture of an organization and the actions and habits of a group of people, leaders need to be committed to the change and get out front to blaze the trail.

Leading doesn’t mean sending a perfunctory email or adding a slide to the presentation for the annual meeting to let folks know you’re all “rah rah” about feedback. Leading means embracing and modeling the new habits, new behaviors and new culture you’re working to create. Simply said, leaders need to walk the talk. This shouldn’t be taken lightly — it’s a commitment and you must stay the course.

So if we’re going to fix feedback, we need leaders to, well, lead. If you own that leader label, go “kick some ask.” Be the first in your organization to consistently ask for feedback. Openly share with others what you’re up to, invite them to share their perspectives, and listen to the feedback you receive. 

Next, encourage others to become fellow Seekers. Your actions will give impetus to the movement you’re trying to create and send a strong signal about your leadership style. And the ultimate bonus is how much you’ll benefit and grow from the information you’ll glean.

Here are just a few reasons to begin seeking:

  • You’ll build new trusted connections with those around you and deepen existing ones.
  • You’ll lessen the fear in others when you ask them to help you.
  • You’ll reinforce the idea that none of us is perfect, and that it’s okay for you and everyone on your team to have some flaws and make mistakes now and then.
  • You’ll set a precedent that your people can come to you to share both the good and the bad, which will be liberating for them and enlightening for you.
  • You’ll boost your own leadership game. (Folkman and Zenger have several studies that look at the connections between Leaders and feedback, they’ve found that that leaders who ranked in the top 10% for asking for feedback also ranked at the top for overall leadership.[1])

If you’re ready to up your leadership game, change the feedback culture for your team and deepen your working relationships, we’re giving you the key. Get seeking, go first!


M. Tamra Chandler is the founder and CEO of PeopleFirm LLC, one of Forbes Magazine’s 2018 “America’s Best Management Consulting Firms.” A nationally recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, Chandler has spent most of her 30-year career developing new and effective ways for people and their organizations to perform at their peak. In 2016, she wrote the acclaimed book “How Performance Management is Killing Performance – and What to Do About It,” which has been published in four languages. Her second book, “Feedback (and Other Dirty Words): Why We Fear it, How to Fix it,” was released this week.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mails on leadership and career growth, among SmartBrief’s more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.